Faves · Handcrapted · Stichin' Post

“The Office Fridge Smells Bad”: a new short story by Cormac McCarthy


The kid eyes the coffee urn. The crust around its edge is a vestige of more profligate times, before the glass carafe shattered. That morning, the hiss of continued drips on the hot plate had punctuated his musings on grammar, an exorcism of squeals amid the spurts of dark, arterial fluid.

His eyes dart left. Another misbegotten has entered.

Did you bring your lunch today?

The question carried a threat, borne on the winds underpinning the fattened rain clouds that drifted in yesterday, and stayed. They were there Monday, too. The coursing rains swelled the sewer pipes and threatened to overspill their bounds.

Naw. I’m going out.

The kid stuffs the fear back down. The refrigerator door would remain closed, for now. He slanks back toward the microwave, seeking sugar packets amid the wrecked shelving.

Hey hey! Are you ready for the lunch meeting?

The bile rises in his throat.  He knows the reckoning is nigh. An unfamiliar face, but the ever-same jolly tone, intending to buoy the social interaction, merely reminding him of the smell, and the fear that slacks his bowels.

He starts for the door, but is blocked. The screeching jank of the UPS dolly careens through the opening, the round face and hustling gait of its proprietor convening to trap him, all racing heartbeat and tallow drippings. The sweat starts, now, as the dark yaw of the refrigerator heaves aside.

The second comer lurches back. She has miscalculated, and now she will pay. The stench hits her first. Gargling down, she whimpers a cry more animal than human, less animal than divine.

The hulk of the mail cart squalls its disapprobation as its minder plies his trade.  The kid’s coffee falls from his nerveless hands, another failure in the tally of his mortality. The smell broils through his being, searching out sins, and finding him in desperate want of confession. There is no confession now, only the powerful blast of rot and gore, refrigerator of darkness, refrigerator of his salvation.

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